Recently there has been a lot of good stuff written on blogs I follow about trauma. It is always good to remind myself why Fiona is "stuck", why Rob always freezes in a crisis, why he is slow to share deep things. Trauma heals slowly. Some trauma may never heal, especially in cases like Fiona where cognitive issues impede her very real efforts.
But today, I saw one of those side effects of trauma in a situation totally not involving my family. Well except that I was there, I guess. The kids and I were up at a park after breakfast. There are lovely, easy trails for short hikes, a pretty pond with a fountain, a waterfall and a playground. It is maintained by our city and they do an amazing job.
It was early and I was surprised when at about 8:15 or so a young mom and her two children joined us at the playground. There was a firemans pole on the play equipment. Lissa was fearlessly whizzing down it. It was a very tall pole, taller than the one at the school yard playground that we normally visit. That bothers my little adrenaline junkie not a whit. KC was mostly avoiding the pole and doing all the other things the playground had to offer.
The two little girls with their mom clearly wanted to go down the pole and were petrified to do so. Mom coached them with lots of positive language. Not working. Mom then climbed on the play apparatus and showed them how she could go down the pole. Also positive. Also not working. Her little daughters would stand at the top, reach out timidly toward the pole and then pull back.
KC finally decided that he wanted to try it but was also intimidated by the height. I told him if he would reach out, that I would have my hand right under his feet and slow him till he felt he was in control on the pole. He thought about it for maybe 10 seconds and grabbed the pole. I did what I said, braced under his feet, till he was secure and let him control his descent.
Two little girls then look at me with "will you do that for me?" written all over their face. I asked if it was okay and mom was fine with it. Same scenario and down the pole they went. After mom watched a couple of times, she came over and did the controlled descent thing with me as long as our kids wanted to use the pole. (Lissa, the fearless excepted!)
No, I am not nuts, there is a trauma connection here. . . Mom had been chatting with me while the kids were playing earlier. She spoke about how this park had always been a safe space for her. She cut school and spent days by that waterfall as a teen. When her parents were fighting, she learned to paint a picture of the park in her head, to keep herself calm. She spoke of drawing in the features of the fountain and the falls, adding grass and a rock to sit on. "When I could draw my unicorn in the picture then I knew I was safe, " she said.
I'm guessing that as a young child, there were not a lot of times when she felt safe reaching out to the adults in her life. I am guessing that the severe fighting she described in her home life started young (not too many teens likely image unicorns to keep themselves calm) Because she was essentially self reliant so young, she doesn't think to reach out to others--and she didn't see that today , in that instant, her daughters were just looking to her for something beyond the "how" of a skill. They were looking for proof that mom was a safety net and would not let them fall. This was an easy situation, where a fellow parent could just model walking a different path. Trauma didn't win today.